How to Structure Your 1-1 Coaching Sessions

As we wind down the year and look toward the next, there isn’t a better time to step up and engage more effectively with your people. One the simplest and most overlooked tools that leaders have to enhance their coaching is the 1-1 Coaching Session.

Great leaders conduct 1-1 Coaching Sessions with their team members on a regular basis. When done correctly, the 1-1 Coaching Sessions have the potential to build alignment, enhance commitment to the leader and organization, and, most importantly, make a significant impact on team member performance.

The challenge is that most leaders conduct their 1-1’s not as “Coaching Sessions” but as transactional project management updates. They roil through a list of tasks and initiatives focused solely on what needs to get done in the near term. While these conversations are important and necessary, they aren’t sufficient. They don’t provide the depth that builds a strong team and leadership bench for the future.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can have a bigger impact, not by spending more time in your 1-1 Coaching Sessions, but by changing how you spend your time in the sessions.

Here’s a 3-part formula to reshape your 1-1 Coaching Sessions. 

Part 1: Discuss the WHAT. Although the primary purpose of this meeting is not a laundry list of tasks and issues, discussing the WHAT is foundational. You can’t avoid the critical work that needs to get done. And in fact, the work tasks form the basis for deeper coaching conversations. In this element of the 1-1 Coaching Session, your opportunity is to discuss progress, to better understand what support your team members need, and to identity the obstacles you can you take out of their way. You can move the conversation deeper by understanding WHAT is important to your team member. Questions might include

  • What is most important about your current work?
  • What are your professional and career goals?
  • What type of environment motivates you?
  • This part of the conversation demonstrates your understanding of their situation and builds credibility.

Part 2: Discuss the HOW. With clarity of the WHAT, you can now take the 1-1 Coaching Session to the next level by discussing HOW the work is getting done. Is the team member meeting commitments? Is she delivering on time and in the quality expected? How efficiently and effectively does she work? Discussing the HOW, allows you to coach the team member about the cause and effect of their work style with what is important to them. For example, if the Team Member says that “quality of output” is most important, yet she by-passes critical conversations with cross-functional team members, you can help shift her perspective to see where her performance may be out of alignment with what’s important to her.

Part 3: Discuss the WHO. This is the most often overlooked aspect of coaching. It goes beyond HOW the Team Member is operating, and dives into WHO the Team Member is showing up as. The WHO refers to the person’s inner state of being and often relates to the assumptions they have about themselves, and their inner needs, values and desires. The opportunity is to help coach a team member to see how their personal behaviors are perceived and the impact their performance is having on others. Are they operating in line with the core values of the organization? Is he or she exemplifying the personal traits and characteristics needed to be successful? What personal tendencies are potential derailers? Discussing the WHO, like the HOW, allows you to coach the team member on how well aligned they are with what is important to them. Using the same example as above, if “quality of output” is important to the team member, yet she is perceived as arrogant or unapproachable with cross-functional peers, the team member is less likely to successfully deliver a quality work product.

So, as the new year approaches, what steps will you take to be a better coach and enhance team member performance? Consider changing how you use your 1-1 Coaching Sessions to make it a more effective part of your delivery.

And, come back here on a weekly basis for new tips and tools on elevating your performance as a coach and leader.